He who Fights Monsters
Parody games are somewhat of a double edged sword. I love a good parody game, but they must be careful not to fall into the same traps as the games they are parodying. As Friedrich Nietzsche said: “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.” I remember when I played Eat Lead: Return of Matt Hazard. It poked fun at a lot of first-person shooter conventions and action games in general, but had a tendency to make the same mistakes as the games it made fun of. In the start of one level, Matt Hazard, the lead protagonist, stands inside a warehouse and says with a tone of frustration: “Oh no, not another warehouse level,” before he proceeds to play though yet another warehouse level.
Making fun of an overly used, unoriginal gameplay element does not make it okay to toss one into the game. Lucky for us, while Magicka’s plot parodies clichés in fantasy literature, that’s all it borrows - it looks like a truly original adventure game.
In Magicka, you take control of a wizard who belongs to a sacred order. Your mission is to stop an evil sorcerer who’s thrown the world into turmoil and destroy his evil creations. You do this by combining some of the 6 elements at your disposal to create powerful spells. You will be able to combine up to 5 elements in one spell. You can, for example, combine fire and water to create a cone of steam. If you splice earth, fire and water together, you will create a solid projectile that will explode in a blast of steam upon impact. The elements have opposites that can’t be combined, such as fire and ice. There are some secret combinations which if done properly and in the right order will create powerful area-of-effect spells that spare no one - not even the wizard casting them.
The game was originally designed as a 2D adventure game, similar to Diablo in style, except a lot more cartoony. It has since been overhauled and changed into a vivid and colourful 3D world that looks absolutely gorgeous. Set in a fantasy world based on Norse mythology, you will have to take on hoards upon hoards of mythological creations conjured up by the aforementioned evil sorcerer. Arrowhead has taken great care to design a fun, yet challenging world for this game. For example, spells adhere to a physics system. If one wizard conjures up a force shield to protect himself, the other wizards can use that shield to bounce their ray spells off, creating an arc in the trajectory of the spell.
Each enemy the wizards face will have strengths and weaknesses. We saw them face off against a couple of heavily armoured monsters at Gamescom and they tried their best to pummel them with earth based projectiles. Those did absolutely nothing. Then they tried steam. Steam was enough to knock the monsters off their feet, but did minimal damage to them. When they tried electricity however, they’d found their weakness. The electricity shot through one monster, jumped to the adjacent one and then to the next until all three of them lay twitching on the ground. With the electricity spell comes a certain risk however, as the player has no control over where it goes. If an ally had been standing a bit to close, he’d run the risk of getting zapped as well.
The game looks very entertaining and funny. The gameplay elements look well designed, innovative and perfectly implemented. Originally destined for the Xbox Live Arcade, it’s now headed for the PC as a digitally distributed, downloadable game. The satire and dark humour omnipresent throughout this game give it an added sense of light-hearted fun. All in all it looks like it’s going to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience and for only 15$, it should be well worth the purchase. At the very least, it will be a nice party game as it supports up to 4 players playing co-op on the same computer (rather cramped keyboard though). I only hope the lack of online Multiplayer doesn’t bring it down too much.